Quarter-Life Crisis Lessons


Years ago, there happened to be only one phase of life crisis – and it was midlife. Alas, with the stresses of student loans piling on interest rates, undeniably talented twenty-somethings sans and the ever terrifying possibility of moving home with parents, a new crisis has come to be a household phrase: the quarter-life crisis.

It’s happened. I knew it was coming and that there was no way I could even stop it. Even at the tender age of 21, commuting back and forth from the City of Brotherly Love to the Big Apple on my own dime for unpaid internships created an anxiety to be experienced by only those who have mortgages, trust funds and several mouths to feed. I had none of those; my only expenses were Greyhound tickets to NYC and back, the occasional meal when I could fit it in between my multiple part-time jobs, 18 credits and my internships, and of course, the absurdly high rent payments in Philadelphia. There was no reason to have the weight of the world on my shoulders, and yet, there it was.

The Hustle

Perhaps the elusive “quarter-life crisis” only strikes those with an innate and unutterable fear of failure. Everyone defines “failure” differently. For me, my definition of “failure” terrified me to the point of exhaustion. At a time when I should’ve been enjoying the last months of my collegiate experience, I was too busy working from 5:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. daily, to ensure that I would never be put into a position of “failure.” When I moved to an entirely new city early last year, instead of going out to make friends and explore my new “home,” I stayed at the office until the sun went down. I knew only the walls of the office and the walls of my apartment complex. That wouldn’t make a great story, would it?

Perhaps it is both a blessing and a curse. If you are terrified of failure, work consumes your life. This could certainly put you among the top performers with the best numbers and greatest experiences but are those numbers enough when you ignore friendships, family and all that which made you what you are? It may be that I’m getting older, smarter or a combination of the two, but I’m starting to believe that it is not enough.

I haven’t stopped working in six years. I’ve gone anywhere and everywhere to better my career and gain the best experience that I could. Along the way, however, I’ve lost the best friendships I’ve ever had. I have stopped talking to friends just because I wasn’t able to find the time. And this – all of this – is what creates the quarter-life crisis. The realization that everything you have been tirelessly working for doesn’t matter when you don’t have anyone to enjoy it with you. Your successes mean nothing when the only person you can count on is yourself (and your parents, if you’re lucky).

As I’m embarking on a new chapter of my life, wherever that may take me, I am entering into it knowing two things. First, I will never lose my innate fear of failure. It makes me who I am and drives me to be the best marketing professional I can possibly be. Second? When someone comes into my life, realizes that my career is of utmost importance and still wants to stay, I will do everything in my power to keep them in my life. As for this quarter-life crisis; it’s old news, as far as I’m concerned. Hit me with your best shot.

To have undeniable success is one thing; to be surrounded by true friendship is another. There is a way to have both and I will have it all. Mark my words.

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About cristinmcgrath

Cristin is a consumer engagement consultant who is currently exploring new opportunities within social media strategy and digital marketing. With experiences ranging from traditional media relations and public affairs to interactive and digital marketing with a specialization in emerging media, she is a versatile marketing professional.